Two events in the last few days have left a permanent smile on the face of the Awujale of Ijebu land, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona; his investiture as the new chairman of the Ogun State Traditional Council, and the commencement of the construction of the Ijebu-Epe road after many years of abandonment, writes Lanre Alfred
Like an intermittent burst of sunshine on a grey day, whoops of delight are bellowing out of the hallowed palace of one of the longest-reigning monarchs in Nigeria, the Awujale and Paramount Ruler of Ijebu land, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona. If the octogenarian royal father broke into a hip, youthful dance, he should be cheered on. Another of his subjects is making him proud. Perhaps after Dr Mike Adenuga, the billionaire chairman of Globacom, a proud Ijebu son who has touched his life in so many ways, no other indigene in recent time has made the Awujale as blithely excited as Governor Dapo Abiodun. Days back, the governor had installed him as the new chairman of the Ogun State Traditional Council.
Interestingly, however, his has been a storied and sensational life. Enthroned at 26 when Nigeria was not yet an independent nation, he has spent the last 60 years of his life in the service of his beloved Ijebuland. Nimble on his feet and blessed with a robust and radiant visage that belies his over eight decades on terra firma.
The Awujale’s journey to the throne of his forbears was fortuitous. Born May 10, 1934 into the Anikinaiya 1 Ogbagba Royal Family of Ijebu Ode, his mother, Alhaja Ajibabi Adetona (nee Onashile) hailed from two famous and illustrious families in Ijebu-Igbo, the Onashile and Aagebelesona families, a factor that would significantly help the Awujale decades later to bridge the gap between Ijebu-Ode and Ijebu-Igbo. Like every other kid his age, the young Prince Adetona was enrolled for his elementary education at Baptist School, Ereko, Ijebu-Ode but he didn’t finish there. He proceeded to Ogbere United Primary School, Oke Agbo, Ijebu-Igbo and later, Baptist School, Ijebu-Ode.
All this was between 1943 and 1950. For his secondary education, he attended Olu-Iwa College (Now Adeola Odutola College), Ijebu-Ode from 1951 to 1956. After his secondary education, he was employed in the Audit Department of the Western Region of Nigeria between 1957 and 1958 but resigned in 1958 to pursue further studies in Accountancy in the United Kingdom. He stayed back in the UK where he thought that he would build a home and a career. But fate had other things in stock for him. The then Awujale, Oba Daniel Robertson Adesanya Gbelwguwa ll died in January 1959.
Tradition does not allow for prolonged interregnum as it were and the process of getting another Awujale began. Though his father, Omoba Rufai Adetona was very much alive and eligible for the throne, he was deemed an illiterate and therefore passed the honour to his son who was away in the UK. Prince Adetona was brought back home and installed as the new Awujale in January 1960. The kingship also came with membership of the Western Region executive council among other appurtenances. He has spent the last 54 years on the throne, making him arguably, the longest serving First Class monarch in Nigeria.
During the investiture, which held inside his palace, Governor Abiodun said that the investiture of Oba Adetona was part of government’s efforts towards sustaining a cordial relationship with the council as a result of its roles in sustaining good governance. He advised members of the council to extend the same support and cooperation given to the immediate past chairman to the Awujale.
While commending the Olu of Ilaro and Paramount Ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle for his commitment in addressing the violence that would have erupted after the upgrading of 75 minor chiefs to substantive traditional rulers by the immediate past administration, the governor said that his government had adopted the report of his committee and implementation was ongoing.
The Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon. Afolabi Afuape said that the council, in the last one year, had made an unprecedented success through patience, maturity, intelligence and godliness. He expressed the hope that the Awujale, owing to his vast experience as the longest-serving traditional ruler in the country, would take the council to the next level.
In his acceptance speech, the Awujale, who remains one of the finest representations of the traditional institution, appreciated the confidence reposed in him by the governor and lauded his administration’s efforts towards tackling the security challenges that have adversely affected the socio-economic fortune of the country.
Particularly, the Awujale expressed profound appreciation to the governor for flagging off the construction of the Ijebu-Ode-Epe road. The dual carriage road is planned to have 10 lanes – four on each side with one pull-out section while there would be a toll plaza comprising 14 payment points.
The road, aside from easing traffic on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, would bring relief to commuters and indigenes, engender the socio-economic growth of the state and save Nigerians valuable time in traffic.
At the turning of the sod, Abiodun said, “One of our promises was to provide infrastructure in all parts of our state. In the course of our campaign, I made a promise that our administration will rehabilitate and reconstruct the Ogun end of the Ijebu-Ode-Epe road to bring succour to our people and engender the economic development of our state.
“Today’s event is yet another instance of promise made and promise kept. As a government that places a premium on integrity, we shall continue to keep our promises.” The governor added, “We will unveil two major roads in Ota, Ogun West Senatorial District, in a matter of days. These roads also link our state with Lagos. We should also keep in mind that Ogun State and Lagos State are still in talks with the Federal Government for the release of the rehabilitation of the Lagos-Sango-Ota-Abeokuta expressway and Sagamu-Ogijo road.”
He said his administration was committed to prioritizing and providing interconnecting roads that would link the state with its neighbours while expressing regret at the neglect of people at the border areas. He promised that they would now enjoy the dividends of democracy as their counterparts from Lagos State.
The governor noted that the business climate in the state has improved tremendously in the last nine months, which he said was made possible by the public and private partnership emplaced by him. While urging the community to join hands with his government and the contractor to ensure speedy completion of the project, he added that it was imperative for the elders and youths to see themselves as partners and stakeholders in government efforts at building the state.
He called on the contractor to ensure that youths in the areas area adequately engaged in the project and enjoined the youths to take the opportunity offered by the project to engage themselves in a profitable venture.
The Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Ade Akinsanya, said the road project was a demonstration of government’s sincerity in providing enduring infrastructure in all parts of the state. He said the project was necessary as it would be an easy link to Lagos, thus improving the economic and social well-being of those in the axis. Akinsanya assured that the road would be completed in record time.
The representative of members of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Atinuke Bello, thanked the government for siting the project in Odogbolu Local Government Area, saying it would create jobs and improve the business fortunes in the area.